Sunday, 7 December 2014

How To Make Lulu Work For You

And no, I don't mean the singer.  Because honestly, that would be a whole 'nother post, and if I knew how to bend aging former celebrities to my will like that then you can be sure I wouldn't be wasting my time with this writing lark.
Not likely to work for either of us ever.

No, the Lulu I'm talking about is the Print On Demand service.  You know, the one that's not CreateSpace.  The one that I sort of get the impression no one uses much anymore, and that I'm probably only still using out of habit.  Still, that stubborn refusal to explore alternatives despite the fact that Lulu frequently makes me want to strangle myself (again, the POD service rather than the singer.  Although...) has meant that I've managed to get quite a good handle on how to make the most of it.

I should say at this point that what I use Lulu for is mocking up copies of my early drafts of novels, because I don't much like proof-reading from electronic copies and I know a lot of other people don't either - and because there's a certain psychological benefit to having your book-to-be in a form that makes it look and feel like a book when you're trying to hammer it into a book-like shape.  So my emphasis has been on making something readable and cheap, although a couple of disastrous early attempts have had me lean a little towards aesthetically pleasing too.  The main point, though, is that I wouldn't have a clue how to use Lulu to self-publish, although my experiences so far have made me wonder if such a thing would be feasible; I think I've bashed down the costs about as far as they'll go and it still isn't exactly cheap.

Probably not the final cover.
So anyway, the book that I just Lulued was Degenerates, this year's novel number two, which I finished in first draft at the end of October.  I chose Digest from under the Value options, which gives a book 13.97 by 21.59 cm, a ratio somewhat wider and taller than the average paperback but that nevertheless produces something looking and feeling very much like a proper book.  Degenerates, at a whopping 470 pages, came out at £6.25 a copy, which was about acceptable for my purposes; but you see my point about how this might not work for self-publishing.  Because that £6.25 is before P&P, and boy are Lulu's P&P charges on the preposterous side.   With that in mind, be careful to opt for the cheapest option; Lulu will try and convince you that this means your books will turn up in about four years time, but in my experience this is a fib.

A few other thoughts.  If you're planning on doing something similar to what I'm doing, make sure to set your project to "make available only to me" on the first page of options, otherwise you may end up with complete strangers reading your draft novel.  Unless you're ready to create your own cover from scratch, Lulu's cover designer is very much on the rubbish side, and it's exceedingly fussy about the quality of images it will accept; I've gotten around this by using the fantastic and free IrfanView to crank up the resolution and dpi.  Oh, and something I probably shouldn't mention but will anyway: it's very easy to find money off coupon codes for Lulu, which they appear to give out like candy, and they don't seem terribly bothered when you misuse (or reuse) them.  Five minutes of hunting will probably save you at least 15% off your blatantly over-priced order.  Lastly, something I plan to experiment with when I have the time is the options to create an e-book; since Lulu appears not to charge for this and their software sounds quite robust, it might well prove a straightforward and cost-free option.

Those, then, are my experiences of trying to bend Lulu to one specific task.  Has anyone out there found ways to drum that price down even further that I'm missing?  And am I wasting time anyway?  Should I have moved over to CreateSpace long ago, or are there other, better options that I'm not even aware of?

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